Something Special to be Thankful For!

[L to R] Katie Bremer, Mary Pollock, Betsy Norton, Sara Melton, Dan Searle

Did you know that something as small as a Tootsie Roll can earn $2500 for our schools? Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Jenison Knights of Columbus, the JPS Cognitively Impaired Categorical Program at Sandy Hill took home their generous donation from this year’s Tootsie Roll drive!

At this month’s Board of Education meeting, teachers Katie Bremer and Betsy Norton, along with Sandy Hill Principal Sara Melton and Special Ed Director, Mary Pollock accepted the donation on behalf of this important program.

According to Dan Searle, The Knights of Columbus in Jenison (Council #7487) is made up of 240 Catholic men “dedicated to the good works of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. With our #1 priority being charity”. Each year the members vote on the organization that will receive the donations from their annual Tootsie Roll Drive that takes place the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Easter. With volunteer families stationed outside local businesses, they happily pass out Tootsie Rolls in exchange for any donation.  Mr Searle adds, “Every cent we collect from the Tootsie Roll Drive stays in the community. The more we collect, the more that is donated back. Through other programs, our Council alone collects and donates approximately $40,000 each year back to the community.”

The donation will be used to support and advance programs within the categorical program at Sandy Hill. In the past, the monies have been used to purchase i-pads and supporting apps, assist with peer-to-peer groups and many other activities.

Ms Pollock knows the value of these donations to the amazing work being done by teachers and staff. “We have an amazing staff in JPS. Teachers, both general ed and special ed, and support staff are constantly meeting and planning to make sure all students have opportunities to be a part of the school community. This donation will help support the goal of meaningful inclusion. The Knights of Columbus organization has been incredibly supportive of our efforts and they contribute via their Tootsie Roll Drive every year. It is greatly appreciated!”

JPS offers Special Ed categorical programs for the variety of needs presented by our students (Cognitively Impaired, Emotionally Impaired, Autism Spectrum Disorder). Ms Pollock adds, “We appreciate the community partnerships because it helps to foster understanding in the community of how our programs and services are provided. We are very intentional about making making sure all our students spend as much time as possible with typically developing peers. Teachers Katie Bremer and Betsy Norton have done a wonderful job with their peer-to-peer program at Sandy Hill. Students with disabilities are accepted and benefit from the relationships with their peers and the typical peers gain from helping others and learning to understand differences.

The Knights of Columbus are certainly important community partners and the admiration between organizations is mutual. “Our kids attend these schools. We love our schools and know we are blessed to have such great and caring educators”, says Mr Searle.

On the day we take an extra moment to appreciate what we have, please add the Knights of Columbus and JPS teachers and support staff to the list! Giving all of our students the best education possible is certainly a team effort! Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at JPS!

Junior High Resource Room Teachers Make a Winning Team!

MIII4086It was The Beatles who first reminded us that “we get by with a little help from our friends” and it’s as true today as it was when they first sang it.

If you’re a student at Jenison Junior High who needs some extra help with your classes, you have the best of two worlds.  Resource Room teachers like Mallory DeFouw, Aaron Boermsa, Dawn Dykstra, Rachel Chapman team up with General Education classroom teachers to team teach and then take those lessons back to their own rooms for a little extra help.

Mallory DeFouw explains how the system works for her: “My morning is spent team teaching in sections that I then teach the Resource Room classes later. So I’m able to see and perform and do those things within those team taught classrooms and then I can decide how the lesson needs to be scaffolded for my students.” Resource Room teachers have smaller class sizes [also called Parallel Classrooms] with only 10-14 students and 1 teacher. This allows for a slower pace and more individual attention when it’s needed. Mrs DeFouw says that this is important because they are “able to target more students needs in the least restrictive environment”.

MIII4093Aaron Boersma adds, “The instruction is split pretty evenly in the co-taught setting.  There are different models of co-teaching, but the model that I have been able to find most effective is when the general education and special education share the instruction.  I have been fortunate to teach with wonderful general education teachers who allow me to come into their classroom and share the responsibilities.  I truly believe and have seen both the special education and general education students benefit from being in a co-taught class academically and socially.”

With two teachers in the room they are able to more quickly address difficulties a student may be having and individual attention can be given when needed which is not always possible with only one teacher on hand.  In some classrooms students are broken down into smaller groups which diffuses distractions and students with learning disabilities are able to learn by watching their peers work their way through difficulties. “Many times students can learn from their peers modeling how to productively struggle” says science teacher, Candace Molenkamp adding, “Learning how to work with peers of all ability levels is an advantage for everyone involved. Seeing tasks from a different perspective is eye opening for students and many times I see teaching happening among the students.”

MIII4085Of course, success comes in many forms and the team teaching model allows our teachers to see the benefits even after the students have moved on. “Relationships are a huge part of my teaching.  I’d say the most rewarding part of teaching students with learning disabilities is when they get to high school and come back to see you and thank you for the impact you had on them.  Whether it was reading a test, editing a paper, helping them apply a new strategy, or teaching them how to advocate for themselves it is those moments that make teaching well worth it!” says Mr Boersma.

He adds, “Special education programs have changed and evolved throughout the years.  Students need to be given opportunities to be successful and challenged and through the co-taught setting special education students get just that.”

What a great way to model the effectiveness of working as a team but this is also a fantastic example of how Jenison teachers do all they can to reach every student!



Celebrating JHS Special Ed Students at our Annual Telethon

More than twenty years ago, Jenison High School student Steven Munster drew inspiration from watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon on television and became convinced of one thing: that Jenison should have its own telethon to celebrate the talents and abilities of special education students.

Jenison High School, Jenison Special Education

Now, two decades later, Mrs. Schantz, Mr. Russell, and Mrs. Grooters keep Steven’s dream alive each May when they organize this annual celebration. With guidance and input from these teachers, students are given the freedom to choose their own performances (teachers work to ensure a good variety of music and appropriate content). Classes are then given about one hour a week to work on their routines, gradually increasing practice time as the show date nears.

Jenison Special Education, Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School

After weeks of determined preparation, JHS special education students perform their telethon for the larger student body. Those in the crowd learn to appreciate the unique talents and skill sets of others they may not know or understand.

“Our students have so much to offer…a genuine sense of care and concern for others, a desire to help, a strong work ethic (some of our students have to work very hard to complete tasks that most of us take for granted) and a sense of respect.  We would love to have our students recognized/celebrated for who they are and all their accomplishments,” said the teachers.

With the roar of the crowd and the beaming faces of her students still fresh in her mind, teacher Alison Schantz reflects on the experience:

“It is really fun to see the students ‘come out of their shell’ during telethon.  Sometimes our students who are often very quiet are the ones who steal the show and surprise us the most with how much they enjoy the spotlight. It doesn’t seem to matter how much we practice…performance day is always quite something!”
Jenison Special Education, Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School

Jenison Special Education, Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School

In a month famous for packed calendars, spring sports, and graduation ceremonies, these teachers make a point to go the extra mile for their group of learners. They set aside time for each detail and consider every nuance of a great performance. But more than anything, they set out to keep their students in the spotlight, knowing that the spotlight can sometimes be difficult for special education kids to capture.

But with loving dedication, these teachers make it happen with the support of their colleagues, the encouragement of parents, and the enthusiasm of their classes.

“There are several things that come to mind for us…the support of general education peers, other teachers and parents is amazing!  Our students gain confidence and much deserved recognition for the courage they display on stage.  Watching the parents faces as they see their student performing on stage is priceless.”
Jenison Special Education, Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School
Please join the Jenison community in applauding these students and their outstanding showmanship!

Knights Of Columbus Contribute to JPS Special Education

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison Special Education Program, Mary Pollack, Tom Ten Brink

Mr. Michael London presents Special Education Director Mary Pollock with a gift from Knights of Columbus.

Have you ever been greeted by a smiling member of the Knights of Columbus standing outside your grocery store in the weeks leading up to Easter? Garbed in yellow and offering Tootsie Rolls in exchange for your donation, these men are “men of faith and men of action.

At January’s board meeting, we were honored to welcome Knights of Columbus member Mr. Michael London. Mr. London explained that one of the missions of the Knights is to support outstanding community work that is already being done by local schools and organizations.

In 2012, the group raised over $8,000 in donations, and gave out countless Tootsie Rolls! Of that money, $2,560 was given to Jenison Public Schools to help bolster our already-exemplary special education program. Another $1,600 was sent to help support the Special Olympics and thousands more went to other schools and non-profit groups.

Special Education Director Mary Pollock and Special Education Teacher Katie Tuit were thrilled to receive money that could be used to purchase specialty items normally outside of their budget, such as additional iPads.

“iPads are great for special education students because many of them do better with the option to dictate speech into a machine rather than having to write or type each word. For example, dictation helps them look up words they’re familiar with but may not know how to spell.

…The iPads have also been helpful for daily review on basics such as math facts. Flipping through math review on this device is a motivator for kids who find success with non-traditional learning styles,” said Katie during the meeting.

We wish to sincerely thank the Knights of Columbus for their generosity and commitment to partnering with Jenison Public Schools. You’ve blessed us!

Jenison Public Schools, Knights of Columbus

(L to R) Superintendent Tom TenBrink, JPS Special Education Director Mary Pollock, Special Education Teacher Katie Tuit, and Knights of Columbus Representative Michael London